How Lupins Fight Climate Change
Lupin flashback! We're looking back at warmer temperatures last August, when Stuart McAlpine, our lupin supplier (and Board member of Wide Open Agriculture) hosted a RegenWA field day up at his family farm near Buntine. You may now recognise the name Buntine as Buntine Protein® - Wide Open Agriculture’s regenerative plant-based protein that actively fights climate change.
So how do lupins fight climate change?
Because they're grown by farmers implementing regenerative practices! Our lupins are grown in the West Australian Wheatbelt using regenerative farming practices, which focus on soil health, biodiversity, water and nutrient cycles and committing to a learning journey. Regenerative practices focus on feeding the soil rather than the plant, which helps the microbes in the soil form a symbiotic relationship with the plant. The plant and the microbes then work together to provide the plant with the nutrients it needs, and the excess sugars that the plant produces (called exudates) are exuded by the plant roots back into the soil - the process of drawing down carbon out of the atmosphere.
Lupins are a pretty special plant as they are also a legume that sequesters nitrogen back into the soil, with a very low environmental footprint and minimal use of inputs. Stuart has been growing lupins for 20 years, and is passionate about the plant as well as its ability to fix nitrogen, and encourage a variety of beneficial microbes in the soil surrounding the plants roots.
How do lupins fix nitrogen?
Lupins and other legumes have the ability to fix their own nitrogen by partnering with specific strains of bacteria. Rhizobium bacteria are required for nodulation and nitrogen fixation by lupins. The bacteria enter the plant roots and induce the formation of a tumour-like outgrowth, or nodule. Within the nodule, the bacteria proliferate and develop the ability to fix atmospheric nitrogen. All lupins sown in a paddock for the first time should be inoculated with rhizobium. On acid soils (pH below 6.5) once a well nodulated lupin crop has been grown in the paddock, a lupin crop will not need to be inoculated for the next five years.
When lupins have formed a symbiotic relationship with soil microbes and the microbes are actively working with the plant roots, the roots will have a signature ‘dreadlocks’ appearance - the soil will be clinging to the root ball when you dig it up. This is how you know the relationship is working!
The nitrogen that the lupins fix in the soil is very beneficial for other plants too, such as oats. The stored nitrogen in the lupin root nodules is accessed the following year by the oats crop. This is why lupins are a great part of a cropping rotation, where cereals and legumes are rotated to reduce the build up of pests and diseases in the soil and surrounding environment.
Did you know that lupins also make a beautiful cut flower? What a versatile plant! Good for the soil, good for us and good for the planet.